Ribollita in Italian means re-boiled, and simply refers to the delicious melding of flavors from leftover vegetable soup, where last night’s crusty bread is also added and the whole thing reheated. A traditional staple in the Tuscan countryside, ribollita is even enjoyed at breakfast! Paolo Petroni’s delicious recipe is detailed here, with some of his notes to making a truly authentic Italian favorite!
Ribollita (Authentic Tuscan Bean Soup)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 small onion, 1/2-inch dice
2 carrots, 1/2-inch dice
2 celery stalks, 1/2-inch dice
1 russet potato peeled, 1/2-inch dice
8 oz lacinato kale, 1-inch dice
1/2 head (3/4 lb) savoy cabbage, 1-inch dice
1 T garlic, minced
Salt and ground black pepper
1/2 pound (1-1/3 cup) dried cannellini beans
1/4 cup tomato-onion jam (or tomato paste of your choice)
4 cups quality vegetable stock
1 fresh rosemary sprig
2-3 thyme sprigs, leaves only
4 large, thick slices crusty bread, toasted
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (optional)
Place the dried beans in a small pot with 4 cups of cold water with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Turn on the heat to medium and bring to a gentle boil, then turn down the heat to the lowest setting and cover with a lid. Keep simmering until cooked (between 3-3 ½ hours). Otherwise use soaked beans and cook them in the same amount of water, until done (cooking time will be quicker). Do not use canned beans!!!
When the beans are cooked, drain them, reserving the cooking water. In a blender or food processor, puree about 3/4 of the beans and return the bean purée to the cooking water. Set aside. Also set aside the remaining whole beans.
Make the soffrito: In a Dutch oven or large pot, saute chopped onion, carrot, celery, potato and garlic over medium high heat until golden in color, stirring often. 7-8 minutes.
Add the remaining 1/2 tsp salt, thyme leaves, tomato paste, bean puree (with its water), kale, cabbage, and vegetable stock to the soffrito and cook over low heat, covered, for about one hour.
Cut stale bread into 1/2-inch slices (or large cubes) (leave crust on) and add to the soup with the whole beans. Stir and cook for another five minutes on low heat. Turn off heat, cover and let sit for several hours, ideally overnight.
Reheat the soup, boiling for a few minutes at low heat. Serve sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper and drizzled with a little high-quality extra-virgin olive oil.
NOTES FROM PAOLO PETRONI FOR THE AUTHENTIC ITALIAN VERSION:
To achieve an authentic flavor, Paolo points out, there are a few boundaries for your creativity.
NOTE: No canned beans! Cook previously soaked beans, or, even better – as Paolo explains – cook the dried beans without soaking them: “slowly.”
The soup needs to be reheated On the stove, no microwave!!! You can of course enjoy this soup on the same day, but the taste will be at its peak the following day.
Do not load up on tomatoes! The soup should not be bright red. I love to throw in 1/4 cup of my frozen Tomato Onion Jam which I make every fall!
Do not load on oil either! Use just the recommended extra-virgin olive oil for cooking, and instead add a drizzle of excellent extra-virgin olive oil at the end “a crudo“ as a finishing touch when serving.
Try to keep the same proportion of vegetables to bread.
Choose a crusty rustic bread, if you can. Since I make two loaves of Pane Pugliese every weekend, this is a perfect use for any extra I have. A day-old crusty bread from your grocery will also do the trick.
One more must-do: lacinato kale is mandatory; it is the ingredient that characterizes the recipe. Other kinds of kale are also welcome, but lacinato kale (cavolo nero) for an authentic taste, this is important!
Many thanks to Paolo Petroni, Book of the True Florentine Cooking and also found on the cookwithgrazia.com website.